How to Support Ambulatory Care with Data-Driven Decisions

Article Summary

Ambulatory care leaders share their top learnings in expanding and managing ambulatory care, with a focus on foundational data and analytics strategies to fuel long-term progress and success in meeting value-based care models and patient needs.

How to Support Ambulatory Care with Data-Driven Decisions - Health Catalyst

This article is based on a Healthcare Analytics Summit 2024 (HAS 24) expert dialogue series involving John Krueger, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Data Quality Officer of the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health, Nicole King, MBA, Manager of Practice Analytics at Froedtert Health & Medical College of Wisconsin, Roger Kerzner, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, Medical Group at ChristianaCare, and Sarah Roberts, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Senior Vice President of Ambulatory Practice Management at Health Catalyst. The session was entitled “Expanding and Managing Ambulatory Growth.”

Ambulatory care is one of the fastest-growing segments of healthcare as health systems look to diversify revenue and services. A rising need for convenient and affordable healthcare services in outpatient settings, a transition to value-driven care models, and shifting consumer preferences fuel this growth.

The push to evolve ambulatory care to meet today’s healthcare needs presents several challenges to the modern health system. Indeed, the complexity of coordinating care across various ambulatory settings, meeting regulatory requirements, and ensuring seamless communication and data-sharing between providers are significant hurdles. 

Investing in technology infrastructure, data and analytics, and workforce training to support these new models of care requires careful consideration. Veteran healthcare professionals discussed their experiences utilizing data and analytics to drive enhancements in ambulatory care at the Healthcare Analytics Summit 2024 (HAS 24).

 Through their insightful conversations, they identified three crucial focal points for health systems looking to grow in the ambulatory management space:

  • Establish a foundation that bolsters technology infrastructure, personnel, and information systems.
  • Foster a culture of trust and accessibility among stakeholders towards available data.
  • Educate individuals to collect, interpret, and leverage data narratives for decision-making.

Initiating Ambulatory Growth with Data-Driven Strategies

Before embarking on efforts to improve ambulatory services, the expert panel said it is crucial to assess and validate your organization’s structural and procedural integrity, including a closer look at your health information systems. They agreed that integrating healthcare data and analytics into strategic planning is paramount. 

One key challenge in leveraging data to close care gaps is ensuring that the data is clean and accurate for clinicians to use effectively. John Krueger, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Data Quality Officer of the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health, said inaccurate or messy data could lead to incorrect analysis and decisions, potentially exacerbating rather than resolving care gaps. Cleaning data involves identifying errors, inconsistencies, and missing values in datasets to ensure that the information provided to clinicians is reliable and relevant.

That said, Krueger emphasized the need for organizations to validate data and educate teams on the reality that data may not always be flawless. Insisting on perfection before extracting insights will only hinder progress in the immediate and distant future. 

Fostering Trust and Data Access Through Informational Storytelling

Nicole King, MBA, Manager of Practice Analytics for Froedtert Health & Medical College of Wisconsin, emphasized that data must be complemented by a compelling narrative to be truly valuable. This narrative can only be crafted through close collaboration with patients and decision-makers to ensure the data presents a comprehensive and accurate picture of their lives and workflows. 

Sarah Roberts, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Senior Vice President of Ambulatory Practice Management at Health Catalyst, underscored the significance of inclusive analytics, advocating for the involvement of all stakeholders – from operational staff and data analysts to clinicians – in interpreting and leveraging the data collectively. Roberts also said to resist the urge to make decisions based solely on intuition or past practices, akin to sailing blindfolded, she said, which can lead to practice inconsistencies and, at worst, clinical errors. 

Data and analytics must form the basis of informed decision-making, enabling leaders to set realistic improvement targets, understand patient behaviors, allocate resources effectively, and drive organizational growth.

Regularly Promote Data and Analytics Through Ongoing Education

Instilling confidence in the data among end users is also a must. To do so, health systems must prioritize education and training for automated solutions and self-service data and analytics tools to promote technological proficiency and a data-driven culture, King said. 

As King aptly put it, while some healthcare leaders are immersed in the world of data and using it to track performance and patient access metrics, their partners may not share the same fluency. Therefore, she recommended ongoing training and building awareness, ensuring stakeholders know how to find data that can inform their performance and strategic goals.

Moreover, Roger Kerzner, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, Medical Group at ChristianaCare, stressed the significance of involving employees from across the organization, from frontline workers to executives, in reviewing and verifying data for real-world accuracy instead of waiting for data teams to finalize validation before granting access. This active involvement is crucial for galvanizing change and fostering trust and support for data-informed processes.

Continuously Promote Data Literacy for Ambulatory Care Growth

Panelists said enhancing data literacy within and across organizations involves the following practical measures:

  • Integrating data training into the onboarding process for executives, clinicians, and support staff.
  • Highlighting the available data and analytics tools and identifying the most valuable metrics.
  • Promoting understanding of how to read and interpret data for enhanced data literacy. 

Furthermore, the panel said it is also beneficial to shift some aspects of health data literacy expectations to patients, such as understanding their labs or blood pressure readings. 

In conclusion, organizations must incorporate data and analytics into managing ambulatory care expansion to thrive in the healthcare industry and provide robust patient care. They must fully utilize data and technological resources and engage all stakeholders. Then, experts contend that health systems, hospitals, and clinics can begin the trek toward harnessing data and analytics to revolutionize ambulatory care offerings and ensure long-term success for their organizations.

Additional Reading

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Here are some articles we suggest:

Virtual Care Analytics Supports Rapid Change in Ambulatory Care Delivery

Restarting Ambulatory Care and Elective Procedures: Analytics Guide Safe, Pragmatic Decisions

Responding and Recovering in Clinic Operations with Advanced Analytics

Five Change Management Strategies to Optimize Ambulatory Care Operations

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